Bookmark PocketMod

I’ve been on a new PocketMod kick in the last few days. (If you haven’t heard of PocketMod, you can check out the original site, which is getting a new lease on life via Kickstarter, at, or of course just do searches.)

What got me back on that was thinking about bookmarks. I read a lot. I started thinking about how to improve the standard bookmark to facilitate note taking. After fishing around – – there are some interesting ideas out there — I had the idea of creating a PocketMod for that purpose.

The idea is to create a PocketMod for every book I read. My thought was to use them for a variety of purposes. I re-read a lot, too, and I thought it might be useful to include on the pocketmod a way to record when I read the book – a la Goodreads, but a little more personal.

My original motivation was as a replacement for keeping track of memorable info and quotes in, say, the cover of the book. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I also like sharing books occasionally – unless it is one I foresee re-reading. So I wanted a way to keep that sort of info without necessarily marking up any given book.

I came up with the following. The jury’s still out on whether it is a good idea. I am trying it out on a couple of books I’m reading right now. I thought I’d go ahead and share what I have. If anyone has done or knows of anyone who has done something similar, I am interested in seeing it.

My layout has a page for the title, author and reading record, then pages for stuff to research further, and pages for stuff just worth remembering (quotes, etc.). The “research” and “remember” pages are just simple two-column tables. The first is a narrow column for the page number.

Pretty basic. Enjoy!

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Team Crossword

May be played with any number and size of teams (2 or more)
Display an unsolved crossword puzzle with no hints.
Step 1: take turns (alternating between the two teams) allowing each team member to guess ONLY one letter

Alternate step 1 (if there are too many or too few people for the letter-guessing to be a fair start): alternate between teams for a set number of starting letters

2. After each team/team member has guessed a letter, continue alternating with hints (selected randomly; hints will repeat until guessed)

3. When no teams correctly guess a missing word in a round, allow each team to add one additional letter

4. Words might be solved hangman-style before they have been associated with the correct hint. Determine case-by-case whether to give credit at that point, or to wait until the corresponding hint is correctly answered.

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Verbs of Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the longest (by far) chapter in the Holy Bible. It isn’t one that I have spent much time in until recently. I began a daily reading of the Psalms about (119/30) months ago and finally reached this chapter.

It is unique in that nearly every one of its 176 verses is an acknowledgment of the great worth of the word of God.

I tend to avoid “reading plans” of Scripture. This is not because I think they are wrong. It is because I know myself and the great risk that I will get mechanical about reading it and just looking to “check off” a passage. I try to identify ways to encourage meditation and simple recognition of the content. James 1 warns us of being like the man who looks in the mirror and goes away ignoring what he saw that needed to be addressed. The word of God is going to show us our bedhead and dirty face and we best not fool ourselves into thinking that just because the words have hit our eyes, we have accomplished anything.

So as I read Psalm 119 I was struck by the fact that, in conjunction with David’s statement about God’s law there is usually a verb that characterizes how David is interacting with it. There are *so many* of these: “I keep Your law”, “I love Your law”, “I delight in Your law”, etc. I began to wonder what words he used and decided to catalog them.

The result is here. Note that this is not a list of every verb in Psalm 119. My focus in this case was just on how David interacted with the word. Not even how God responded to David’s interaction, although that is of great importance. Spoiler alert: I found 44! 44 unique ways that we, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are challenged to interact with God’s word. I hope you find it useful and that you don’t take my word for it.:)


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The Whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10ff) – children’s activity

Ephesians 6:10ff is the wonderful passage on the spiritual armor necessary for every biblical follower of Jesus Christ. For an excellent short sermon on this passage, I highly recommend Alistair Begg’s at

I struggled with an activity to use when doing a children’s bible study on the passage. Here is what I came up with. If it doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll remove this post but here goes just in case. 🙂

The components of the armor are as follows:

1. belt of truth

2. breastplate of righteousness

3. shield of faith

4. shoes of the gospel

5. helmet of salvation

6. sword of the Spirit/the Word of God

I decided to build a goofy “man” out of various supplies. Our church has a massive supply of donated plastic buckets. We also have a pretty good pile of swimming pool noodles. My armor guy has small buckets for feet, a mailing tube cut in half for legs, two larger buckets, one face up, the other face down on top of the first for the torso (breastplate – a bit of a stretch there), then a kid’s construction hat for the helmet of salvation. The larger buckets just sit atop the mailing tube legs.

I cut a pool noodle short enough that it would just wrap around the upper torso bucket. Linking the two ends together makes the belt of truth. A yardstick is the sword of the Spirit.

I got supplies to create two of these men. Next, I took the six spiritual aspects (truth, righteousness etc.) and wrote them on mailing labels. I made two sets of these (so twelve labels total).

I mentioned having a very large number of plastic buckets. I took twelve of them and taped the mailing labels inside – one mailing label containing each aspect inside a bucket, two sets making twelve altogether. Using buckets was just appropriate because we have so many of them. I needed a lot because what I did next was to gather a big set of them, put them all in a pile and randomly mixed in the twelve with the mailing labels taped inside. It wouldn’t have to be buckets; it could be blocks or anything you have a large quantity of.

So break the kids up into two teams. Turn them loose digging for the six aspects of the armor among the pile of buckets or whatever you used. They have to find each aspect, then once they have all six aspects, they are to build the armor man and stick the appropriate label on the appropriate part. So, for example, their completed man should have a construction helmet with the mailing label that reads “salvation” on it.

The winning team has a fully constructed, properly-labeled armor man. I’ll try to add a pic later.

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My Homemade College Computer Desk

There is wilted lettuce in our refrigerator that is more handy than I am, so I am the last person to blog about handmade furniture.

That being said, many years ago I was getting ready to move into a college dorm as a first-year comp-sci major at Georgia Tech. Since I knew my next 4+ years would be spent at a keyboard, and since my budget for furniture roughly equaled my budget for interplanetary spacecraft, I hit on a dirt-cheap, mobile (to simplify those quarterly moves back home for my alternating co-op job at Big Blue) homemade design that I used thru college and into our first years of marriage. Once we upgraded, my mother-in-law wanted it, and now it is who knows where; no doubt decayed in a landfill.

Given my lack of handyman skills and knowledge, it may very well be nothing special, but I don’t know of another desk that I can fold up and in the back floorboard of a car for transport and get the use that I did out of it, so I thought I would pass it along in case anyone else found it useful.

As I’ve already described somewhat, the idea is to have a decent workspace for computer work and just plain studying, with storage space for books and such, and have it be portable enough for a college kid to pack into the back seat along with luggage and boxes and such. So what I ended up with looks like the following. Apologies for the fact that my artistic abilities rival my woodcraftiness.


Basically I bought a big sheet of plywood (wait! see step one below). Add to that I guess eight small hinges, eight small eyehook screws, four short lightweight chains and a single simple bracket-style shelving set. A handful of wood screws.

The most demanding aspect of this project is getting the plywood cut. I had no power tools, so I went to a neighbor who did, gave him my target cut sizes, and he had it whacked up in minutes.

1. So the sheet is cut into seven pieces. All of the brown in the pic is from that sheet of plywood. It was many years ago; maybe it required two sheets. I don’t recall for certain. Wing it. Now that I think about it, maybe the back of the desk was a single uncut sheet, and the other six pieces were cut from the second sheet.

2. The simplest part to describe – the top. I fastened the bracketed shelving (the green vertical lines) and just laid one small piece of plywood on that as an upper shelf.

3. The piece numbered 3 and the matching one are attached to the back piece with hinges (identified by black marks). This allows them to fold in for transport. This is one obvious place for improvement. If one of the two was attached instead to a spare strip of plywood that was first screwed to the back, then the two number 3 pieces could fold flat. As it is, after you fold one of them in completely, the other won’t fold in completely, so it sticks out a little. I didn’t really mind. It still fit in my back floorboard easily.

These two pieces form a base for the desktop piece. That is just another section of the plywood, and it is just laid on the number 3 pieces. I didn’t attach it or anything.The weight of my computer kept the surface in place just fine. Told you – basic and simple.

4. This last step is optional. Of course this whole thing is optional. I wanted a little additional shelf space, so I had two small plywood pieces cut (number 4 and the corresponding one on the left side hidden by the left-hand #3 piece) and attached them with hinges so they would simply drop down and hang out horizontally. For transport, just flip them up. For reinforcement, I attached one end of each of the four chains to the edges of the number 4 pieces, and attached the opposite end to the backboard. The chains are poorly pictured in blue. The eyehook screws were used to attach the chains.

These two side shelves didn’t hold a lot; I think I put software cases on them or something. Back then, maybe diskette boxes :).

There you go. Won’t win any Bob Vila prizes but it was cheap, I made it myself, and it was highly functional. Hope it is useful to someone.


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Rest Stop: Take Heart

My son and I went geocaching last Thursday and got to see Arkabutla Lake. To get there you take “Scenic 304”. Along the way there are the gravel stops where you can take a break and take in the view. Today’s post is like that; a brief stop to take in an interesting portion of God’s word.

This study of walking in love has led to a look at Matthew’s use of the word “heart”. Every use of the word “heart” in Matthew’s gospel is spoken by Jesus. There is an expression that Christ uses three times in Matthew that I almost passed over: “take heart”:

Matthew 9:2  And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Matthew 9:22  Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
Matthew 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (ESV)

We can act and speak and even think courageously, confidently and without anxiety because of His presence. Jesus can calm our storms, heal our sickness, and most importantly, He can forgive our sins. When we as believers love Him with all our heart, we can trust Him, and this changes our behavior.

Take heart.

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Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

We are commanded by God through the Apostle Paul to be imitators of God. Do what He does, say what He says, think what He thinks. Then Paul follows that up with another command, and that command just happens to be a particular pattern we can use in order to *be* imitators of God.

We are told to walk in love. We are told that Christ is the example for us. How Christ “walked” – what He said and did – is our pattern.

In the Sermon on the Mount, He said to love our enemies. In the sacrificial death of Jesus, following the horrific abuse by the religious leaders and the people, in which Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. What he said and did demonstrated love. As God in the flesh, He paid the price for our sins, and our forgiveness comes only through Him.

Matthew 19 (as well as Mark 10 and Luke 18) tells of a confrontation between Jesus and the rich young ruler. Here again we have a command to love. Jesus reminded the man of the command to love our neighbor. Now the focus of the passage is a deeper truth, which, unfortunately, the young man never claimed. This command that Jesus reiterated, and that Paul alluded to, is beyond us. We are not capable of the love that we are commanded to give and to live.

We saw how the young man was convinced, like so many others in his day and in ours, that he had loved his neighbor, and had honored his parents, and honored his wife, and kept himself sexually pure and treated others properly. But Jesus showed him that his heart was in his possessions, and that he was trusting in his own actions to redeem himself. The young man likely was not present at the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus made clear just how easily we fall into sin with our thoughts (see Matthew 5:21ff and 5:27ff).

We cannot love as we should outside of Christ. We are sinful people, and our acts of righteousness are worthless. We can only rely on the righteousness of Christ. Salvation means God grants us Jesus’ perfection and lays on Him the blame for our iniquities, our sins. There is nothing we can do except trust in His atonement. For an excellent sermon covering the primary message of this encounter, I recommend the one by John MacArthur on Matthew 19.

But there is another example that Jesus gives us in this encounter that we can learn from. Another way to imitate Him and walk in love.

Mark includes this … “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (Mark 10:21) In our sinful nature, we are not loving. We are anything but loving. Especially in situations like this one.

The young man came to Jesus in ignorance. He was ignorant of the only way to acquire eternal life. How do we respond to ignorance? With impatience? With pride? With scoffing? With frustration?

The young man came to Jesus presumptuously. He believed he had been righteous, obedient. How do we respond to presumptuousness? With scoffing? With anger? Maybe we simply ignore the offender. Maybe with “How dare you??!”

He came to Jesus in vain – – at least for him. Jesus knows our hearts, and knows our past and our future. He knew the young man was trusting in himself. He knew the fellow would leave trusting in himself – and not heed Jesus’ words. We may not know the future, but oftentimes we can predict it pretty accurately. And when we know that someone is going to drop the ball, not follow through on their commitment, not “get it”, our reaction is typically not Christlike.

The young man interrupted Jesus. Mark tells us “And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Mark 10:17 ESV)

How do we respond to interruptions? Frustration, disgust, impatience, anger.

And [the young man] said to him, “Teacher, all these [commandments] I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
(Mark 10:20-21 ESV)

Jesus responded in love. Notice that love doesn’t mean letting the young man off the hook. He still left Jesus unrepentant. But Jesus loved him.

God in His sovereignty will engineer all sorts of situations every day that are, to us, unfair, inconvenient, disruptive, “NOT OUR FAULT!!”, as opportunities for us to respond in love. Will we lash out or love? Will we lose our temper or love? Will we leave or love?

What Will We Do?

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